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Overview

Primarily a country-rock band with some psychedelic influences, Blue Rodeo is one of Canada's most unique, talented and popular acts.

Members

The band was formed by two distinctive singer-songwriters and guitarists, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. The two had been playing together since 1977 under various names, including the HiFis and Fly To France, before forming the current incarnation of the band. The other founding members comprised Bazil Donovan (bass), Cleave Anderson (drums), and Bob Wiseman (keyboards). Wiseman was later replaced by the band's touring keyboardist James Gray, and pedal steel guitarist Kim Deschamps was made a permanent member. Deschamps was asked to leave in October 1999, although he still featured on their The Days In Between album. He was replaced by ex-Wilco member, Bob Egan.

Albums

Analysis

"Try" (Outskirts, 1986)

Every time you walk in the room
I couldn't even be sure of a smile
You were never the same way twice
But I'm falling in love
Night after night - oh it's crazy

Oh you got to try try try
Don't you know you've got to try try try
Oh baby you try

Blue Rodeo's first hit, "Try" was a song full of emotion about lost love and the nasty way women can be. However, lyrically the piece never really picks up, but that doesn't matter one bit. It features Jim Cuddy, the lead singer of the song, using his falsetto for good cause, and the song has that now-familiar rock-twang Blue Rodeo does so well. Cuddy himself states that it was "essentially a singing song. A lot of the things we did when we first started as a band were kind of unconscious - just put together - it relates to fragments of stories and advice songs, but really it was a singing song... just me trying to find an emotional way to sing." The album as a whole is comprised of songs with less-than-stellar themes, mostly focusing on lost loves and the tribulations of relationships, with a good dose of 1980's rebellion in the song "Rebel".

"Diamond Mine" (Diamond Mine, 1989)

And I hear all these rumours about you
Yea the trash lines up at my door just to bring me the news
But all it does is make me kind of wonder
Why are people so eager to be so cruel

'Cause when I look into your eyes
Our love shines Our love shines Our love shines
Like a diamond mine

The title track, "Diamond Mine" isn't necessarily lyrically indicitive of the rest of the album's maturation of content, but musically it proves to be a huge leap for the band. Gritty and broken up with what proves to be a heart-wrenching guitar solo in the middle, this song tends to get stretched to its limits in live performance (I timed the solo alone one concert at seven minutes). Greg Keelor, the singer for this one, laments: "I wish this would have been called 'Diamond Mind'. Can you change the title of it on this cd? Tell them I said it was ok, cause it's the same thing, really." Other songs tackle greater subject content, like Oliver North in "God and Country" and US domestic policy in "How Long".

"Til I Am Myself Again" (Casino, 1991)
I had a dream that my house was on fire
People laughed while it burned
I tried to run but my legs were numb
I had to wait til the feeling returned
I don't need a doctor to figure it out
I know what's passing me by
When I look in the mirror
Sometimes I see traces of some other guy

I want to go, I know I can't stay
But I don't want to run feeling this way
Til I am myself, til I am myself
Til I am myself again

I'll let Jim Cuddy explain this one. "Definitely a travelin' song. During the era of that song, we'd been on the road for 5 years, doing 200 dates a year... doing everything we could because we'd quit our jobs maybe a year and a half earlier. So that song is about feeling fractured and it's a bit of a constant theme in that up ahead, if only you could get feeling right, you could sort everything out." As an album, I've always felt it is one of their weakest, but with such tortured love songs like "After The Rain" and "What Am I Doing Here", it still rings true to the band's success.

"Lost Together" (Lost Together, 1992)
I stand before this faceless crowd
And I wonder why I bother
So much controlled by so few
Stumbling from one disaster to another
I've heard it all so many times before
It's all a dream to me now
A dream to me now
And if we're lost, then we are lost together
Yea if we're lost, then we are lost together

Why is it that the title tracks are the best? Go figure. But this song was a strong hit, and again showed another stage of maturity for the band. The inspiration of the song was a gig the band played just outside of Detroit, where there was a small river between the stage and the audience, so the sound was often blocked by large ships passing inbetween. Feeling frustrated, Keelor headed back to his bus, where he decided that the situation was beyond absurd, and figured that if the concert (and chance at American recognition) was "Lost", then at the very least, the band was "Lost Together". The rest of the album continues to show the developing talent and musical progression of the band as a whole, still straddling the country-rock border line.

"Five Days In May" (Five Days In July, 1994)
Looking back it's hard to tell
Why they stood while others fell
Spend your life working it out
All I know is one cloudy day
They both just ran away
Rain on the windshield heading South
She loved the lines around his mouth

Sometimes the world begins
To set you up on your feet again
It wipes the tears from your eyes
How will you ever know
The way that circumstances go
Always going to hit you by surprise
I know my past, you were there
In everything I've done
You are the one

The quintessential Blue Rodeo album, Five Days in July secured the band's place in musical history in Canada. This song inparticular is based solely on the action of one of their sound crew members writing his wife's name in the sand outside one of their beach gigs. But with other amazing songs titled "Bad Timing", "Dark Angel" and others (including a guest appearance from a then-unknown Sarah McLachlan), this album is definately their strongest and most powerful. If you own one Blue Rodeo album, this is the one to pick.

"Side Of The Road" (Nowhere to Here, 1995)
I pulled over to the side of the road
I was feeling kind of sad
I was feeling kind of blue
I walked across this farmer's field
and I looked up to the blue-white sky
and your eyes they were in my mind
and I just want to hold on to you
yeah your eyes they were in my mind
and I just want to hold on to you

Considered by some of Blue Rodeo's weakest effort, I think people just got turned off by its mixed styles. Here we also see the differences between leadmen Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. While Cuddy tends to stick with the country-rock strains of "Better Off As We Are", Keelor croons more of the band's deep and somewhat psychedelic tunes like "Girl In Green" and "Brown-Eyed Dog".

"Falling Down Blue" (Tremelo, 1997)
All right I miss you tonight
And I'm not really sure what to say
It keeps rolling in like a slow moving train
It gets harder and harder each day
Each time I think that the worst of it's through
I am stopped in my tracks by some vision of you
All right I miss you tonight
I admit that I'm falling down blue

Keelor and Cuddy gel their styles much easier on this album, and it shows well in their collection. This particular song demonstrates that even though Cuddy is still singing sad love longs, the content and lyrical magic created is better served to their aging fan base. The piano solo in this song is enough to twist the happiest mood into a melancholy trance. Other excellent songs from the album include the political "It Could Happen To You" and the strange but touching "Beautiful Blue."

"Somebody Waits" (The Days In Between, 2000)
Somebody waits for the time I know will never come
You get yourself so high
Then you fall down feeling blue
One day you’ll wake up and realize you’ve had enough
There’s a thousand shining moments
Waiting just to happen to you

Finally the diverse styles of Keelor and Cuddy come together on this album. Sporting a much more rock sound than country (probably due to the fact that they dropped their pedal steel guitarist Kim Deschamps while recording the album), it is a full sounding album with very few weak moments. The hard-rocking "Begging You To Let Me In" contrasts the lamenting "Sad Nights." Ths album also ensures that even though the band is entering its third decade of existence, it still has a grasp on making great music and pushing their own creative buttons to pump out quality tunes.

Lyrics and quotations referenced from bluerodeo.com

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